Do you find yourself buying pre-packaged meat at the supermarket because you’re not sure what to look for when you buy from the butcher? Don’t worry, we’ve collected the most important facts when it comes to buying fresh meat from your local butcher.
The right cut: working vs. luxury.
There are two general types of meat cuts: “working cuts” and “luxury cuts”. A luxury cut of beef or pork comes from the back of the animal and is more tender than a working cut. Meat, which is labelled with “grilling,” “tenderloin,” “porterhouse,” “rib eye” or “T-bone” is a luxury cut.
A working cut comes from the shoulder, leg or flank. Beef, which is labelled with “marinating,” “stewing,” “top round,” or “bottom round” is a working cut. They need to be cooked slowly on low heat to become tender, while luxury cuts can be cooked quickly on a high heat.
Take a closer look at the marbling.
While most of us don’t like extremely fatty meat, you should look for well-marbled meat. Extremely lean cuts of meat will dry out quickly and have less flavour. You can recognize a good piece of well-marbled meat by the small white flecks through the meat. These keep the meat moist and tender while it’s cooking.
Bone in or out?
You can, of course, buy boned meat but it will generally be more expensive than meat with the bone in. Not only are bones great conductors of heat, leading to shorter cooking times, they also help make great soup or bases for sauces. Some people even claim that cooking meat with bones gives the meat a more intense flavour.
The firmer, the better.
When it comes to meat, the golden rule is the firmer, the better. Fresh meat should be firm, not tough or soft. Poke the fleshy part of your palm right below your thumb – that’s the firmness your meat should have.
It’s all about the colour.
Different kinds of meat have different colours: fresh beef is dark or cherry red; brown coloured beef should be avoided – the brown colour is a pretty good indicator that it’s been hanging around for a while. Fresh cuts of chicken and pork should always be pink; if they are grey, they are already older and you should avoid them.